South Portland native Jon Gillies is in elite company.
The freshman goaltender for the Providence Friars became the third player in history to be named to the Hockey East First Team All-Star as a freshman, joining forward Paul Kariya (Maine), who played 15 years in the NHL, and defenseman Brian Leetch (Boston College), who had 18 year career in the NHL, most notably with the New York Rangers.
“There’s not much else to say, when you hear those guys’ names and see your name next to (them) it’s definitely unbelievable,” said Gillies. “I know throughout the year, I wouldn’t been anywhere without my teammates. I really thank them for that.”
He was also named Hockey East Rookie of the Year and was named to the league’s All-Rookie team.
Gillies, a third round pick of the Calgary Flames in the 2012 NHL Draft, played in 35 of 38 games for the Friars, compiling a 17-11-6 record with a 2.08 goals-against-average and a .931 save-percentage. He also recorded five shutouts, which is a new single season record at Providence.
The season came to an end last Friday night in Boston at the Hockey East semifinals, where the Friars fell to the eventual Hockey East champions, UMass-Lowell, 2-1.
“That’s what I was most pleased with, being consistent game-to-game throughout the year, that’s pretty remarkable for a freshman,” said Providence College coach Nate Leaman. “Our goaltending coming into the season was a question mark. We weren’t proven in that area whatsoever. It provided a good opportunity for Jon to come in. He came in and he won the job and I think he did a very good job carrying it from there.”
Gillies credited his coach for keeping him focused from the first game to the final buzzer of the last game of the season.
“Coach Leaman was a big part of that. If I had a good weekend, he would bring me into his office and made sure I was ready to work twice as hard at practice that week to keep it going,” Gillies said. “If I had an off weekend where some stats are deceptive, I had my share of uncomfortable stats, we would talk about those. When those happened, it always seemed my team had my back.”
Gillies also stated he wanted to earn the team’s trust and playing time in practice during the preseason.
The three games he didn’t play in he was with Team USA at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Under-20 World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia, where he served as the backup goaltender as the Americans won the gold medal for the third time in the 37-year history of the tournament.
“Although I just played a period (in the tournament) and one exhibition game, I know 100 percent I came back a better goalie,” Gillies said. “That’s just from watching John Gibson (Team USA’s starter and a 2nd round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2011) on and off the ice. That’s my greatest and lasting memory of that to able to watch him and learn from him.”
For Leaman, next year is a new year and which means a fresh start.
The number one thing you don’t set up expectations,” Leaman added. “The expectation for Jon and for our team should be to get better every day and to take it one day at a time, when next season comes, one game at a time. If you put up expectations you are doomed to fail..”
Both say Gillies will need to work on his rebound control during the off-season going into next season.
South Portland’s Jon Gillies made the Hockey East all-star team as a frreshman